Puritan Faith and Its Depiction in Young Goodman Brown
Nathaniel Hawthorne is known for an interest in Puritan faith and how he incorporates that into his stories. “Young Goodman Brown” is a perfect example of this, for the characters Puritan values play a huge role to the stories meaning. The first time reading through this story, it was unclear on what Nathaniel Hawthrone was trying to explain. After reading through it a couple more times it finally came clear to me that there are a couple different major and minor themes discussed in “Young Goodman Brown.” “Young Goodman Brown” teaches us lessons about too high of expectations, leaving faith, and judging people to harshly.
Goodman Brown, the main character who lives amongst the Puritan community. The Puritans value things such as honesty, community, marriage, and god. Browns who decided to leave these values and walk with the devil already set him back. Mentally and physically Brown walks away from his Faith. Physically, Brown walks away from his Faith by leaving his wife. Saying goodbye to Faith- both literally and metaphorically. His wife says, “and may you find all well, when you come back”. (168) This is foreshadowing the decision Brown had made. In this short story there are many different themes but the one that pops ups the most is the theme about leaving his faith. He not only leaves his faith, but he also leaves his wife who name is ironically Faith. He leaves his wife the moment he thinks that this sin will not an everlasting effect on his life.
Guilt and paranoia are the emotions that come up in this story. Brown doesn’t just fell a crushing guilt because he is leaving his wife but also because he fears that his faith knows about the purpose of his journey. He fears being discovered as a sinner, he is certain that faith is holy, and so it doesn’t occur to him that his wife is wants him to stay at home to keep them from both going into the woods at night and sinning their sins. Browns wife doesn’t want him to leave as she says “this Dearest heart,’ whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, ‘pr’y thee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed to-night. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts, that she’s afeard of herself, sometimes. Pray, tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year!”.(168) She says this because she doesn’t what her husband to leave her until the morning, she just wants one more night with him. Maybe this is her way to get him to rethink his actions and decide not to go off into the woods. She wants to hold off his journey into the woods for the night and make him redecided on what he wants to do.
Even though Goodman Brown had just lied to his wife and he admits it to himself that his journey is evil, he continues to think of himself as one of the people who think the Puritans are destined by god to go to heaven. He believes that his wife’s godliness will make him holy. Brown seems to think he can just dip his toe into the sin and then remove his toe from the sin without dealing with the harm that could have been done. Brown is extremely opinionated, believing he can leave his values and faith all at once and still be accepted into heaven. The Puritans believed that only God knew who would be accepted into heaven, and the pursuit of people may be rotten underneath. Brown had thought that his sin filled that night would have no result on him going into heaven, because his wife would be going down there.
Hawthorne creates an utter contrast between the seemingly perfect young newly married couple and their sinister setting, Salem at nightfall. Their names “Faith” and “Goodman” promise the characters loyalty and ethics, and Faiths ribbons seem to be very childlike and innocent. Let’s look at Goodman Brown’s name. If you think about his name you think that he would be a “goodman” but in this story he is not. If he was the a goodman like his name is he wouldn’t be leaving his wife or sinning in his life. Faith name could mean anything. In this story I believe it means that she had trusted her husband not to leave her and strong belief in God that he would not allow her husband to leave. After some long thinking the faith she had in God not let her husband leave didn’t happen.
In Goodman Brown, Hawthorne tires to demonstrate that the man’s limitation comes from his inner fight with the evil. Furthermore, Hawthornes adversary give character the fight with the protagonist, Brown abandons his uncertain indecisive decision and at last sets himself to the path. Goodman Brown, as already stated, was an individual who was very overwhelmed by his self-conscious and was someone who thought himself to have committed serious sin by meeting the devil and taking part of a meeting of witches in his imaginings. This dream of the protagonist spoke of an era where people were torching with religious guilt and false beliefs. During a meeting with the devil Goodman Brown realizes that his wife Faith is being taken away by the devil. This doesn’t mean his wife but his faith. Brown said this “My Faith is gone!’ cried he, after one stupefied moment. There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, Devil, for to thee is this world given.” (175) I think here he is begging the devil not to take away his faith. But what Brown doesn’t realize is that he sinned against his believes and now a sinful person who believe differently from his own beliefs.
Goodman Brown may supposedly be Hawthorne’s own viewing of his own self with efforts of his confidence in humanity and his own self. To a lesser extent, Brown is Hawthorne in his newly married life. Brown starts out as a good, happy decent guy and he seems very pleased and suddenly changes when he decides to go against the advice his wife faith give him and go with his gut, that he should go out on a journey into the woods to meet the devil. It is obvious that that the path in the woods sustains a symbol into the dark truth. As he continues walking down the path in the woods, he arrives at the peak of his journey, he arrives at the place where the witches are holding a meeting. Brown now believes to have lost his faith despite his final effort to save his spouse. He will never know if he was successful in saving her.
The Puritans forest is marked as a place of fear and a place of possibility. It contained a threat from Indians and a world out of the control of the puritan’s village, but it also was a place to escape from the pressures of the society and its people that where all watching each other for sin. Brown, who is walking into the woods expresses out of a sinful curiosity. The forest seems to be a place to hide a sin everywhere. The forest might also be a place to reflect his own mind, which is full of his own confusions and terrors. “The road grew wilder and drearier and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, and still rushing onward with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil. The whole forest was peopled with frightful sounds—the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts, and the yell of Indians; while sometimes the wind tolled like a distant church-bell, and sometimes gave a broad roar around the traveler, as if all Nature were laughing him to scorn”.(175). Brown finally accepts the evil fate that he put on himself and runs towards the Devil. The conditions around him become wild and scarier, but that didn’t stop Brown form continuing towards the devil.
The doorway of the house symbolizes the turning point in this story, the moment in which Goodman Brown can either choose to listen to Faith and stay at home as a good husband or be the bad husband and leave her to go follow his curiosity and go off into the night alone. Faith’s worry of bad dreams suggests that there are a various possibilities: that there may be something evil and mystic regarding Brown’s mysterious nighttime journey; or she could simply see the fear in being lonely while not being with her husband at; or that she could worry about what she might do without her husband being around. She doesn’t what to have to think about going through her life after just getting married and after three months of marriage losing her husband to the devil.
The ending of this story is diffidently a unique way to end a story. The narrator never steps in and says rather Browns whole story was a dream or not. What the narrator does do is sum everything up as to what happened to Young Goodman Brown. “And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, and aged woman, and children and grandchildren, a goodly process, besides neighbors not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom.” (73) This quote is explaining what had happened to Brown when he died at the end. He will be followed by faith, even though he didn’t believe in any of his faith, he will also be followed by everyone who loved him and a couple of people who didn’t care for him that much but still cared. Goodman Brown does not live up to what we would like he would with name like Goodman Brown. If he was the Goodman like we would like he wouldn’t be meeting with the devil or leaving his wife whose name is ironically faith and would not leave the beliefs he had to meet with the devil. He doesn’t fully live up to his name.
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